Not Peanut Butter

Not Peanut Butter

Not Peanut Butter

Not Peanut Butter

Many moons ago, there were several Canadian carpenters building 2 x 4 houses in sunny Chiba Prefecture.

Anyway, meeting these Canadian carpenters was most fortuitous.

2 x 4 house wall going up

The head carpenter returned to Ontario Canada after the small local housing company went bankrupt, and the Canadian carpenters were let go.

He was then engaged to send over two containers full of housing material and 3 Canadian carpenters to build one’s very own Canadian 2×4 house in beautiful sunny Chiba, where one resides with the honourable wife and 5 beautiful cats to this very day.

It was interesting to meet these skilled craftsman here in Japan, in which to their shock, surprise, and sometimes dismay offered a significantly different experience from their hometowns in the Eastern part of Canada.

One particular Canadian carpenters was having significant issues adjusting to Japanese food, and was longing for some good old Canadian comfort food, peanut butter!

Peanut Butter

Now, peanut butter is something relatively recent to the Japanese and is still not really so widely available in regular supermarkets.

However, to this homesick country Canadian boy, he saw an entire wall full of what looked like peanut butter, hallelujah!

Thinking he has found peanut butter paradise, he purchased a unit and excitedly brought it home, dreaming of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (PB&J).

One happened to be visiting the Canadian carpenters on that very day, and he held up the yet unopened container saying in a hopeful voice “this is peanut butter, right?”

His hope of a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to soothe his homesick soul was crushed under the boot-heal of reality when told gently, “no, this is miso (soybean paste).”

味噌の種類

To which he replied with a deep melancholy look in his eyes, “what’s that?”

One informed him that miso is one of the main staples of the Japanese diet.

Miso is a versatile paste which can be mixed into sauces, dressings, batters, vegetable dips, and soups (or whatever tickles one’s fancy).

One of the very best things about miso is that it is a cultured food, and a natural source of healthy probiotics (also known as “good bacteria”), which is beneficial for digestion (nothing quite like a healthy bowl movement).

An all time personal favorite, the traditional Japanese breakfast is always accompanied by a hearty bowl of miso soup as the companion to the rice, fish, natto and pickles.

和風朝食セット焼き魚 おひたし みそ汁

Often miso is a feature in the ramen shop, where one can choose between soy sauce, salt, pork broth (tonkotsu), or miso flavor.

The first experience one had eating ramen back in January 1987, was a hearty bowl of miso ramen on a cold winter day. This delightful meal included spring onions and slabs of pork (kakuni), and the most delicious miso ever, and when eating this incredible dish it was love at first bite.

Miso Ramen with Kakuni

However, much to the chagrin of the Japanese companion, the entire bowl of soup was drained of all liquid with abject delight.

Along with being chastised for these poor manners, the lecture was also accompanied by the phrase, “if you drink all the ramen miso soup you will die of high blood pressure one day.”

Slurping up the soup is now looked upon as better manners as it helps the environment by eliminating food waste.

Moreover, as of this writing, one is not dead yet, so it looks like it’s okay to swill the ramen broth.

Wall Of Miso

Bonus Peanut Butter: When interpreting for American engineers at the world’s largest synthetic paper factory, this outstanding Japanese company always prepared a delicious lunch box for them. However, one engineer was not adventurous whatsoever in their eating habits, and brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to the factory every day. It is here where he washed down the PB&J sandwich with a coke, every day. When inquiring each day as to how PB&J sandwich was, his answer was always the same, “predictable.”

Akitaya; Japanese Style Family Restaurant

Akitaya; Japanese Style Family Restaurant

Akitaya; Japanese Style Family Restaurant

Akitaya; Japanese Style Family Restaurant

Anybody who has been in Japan for a couple of days, understands this is the food capital of our shared earth.

Now, I’ve come across many many unique and delicious restaurants, or what we refer to as “shops” in my journey here in the Land Of The Rising Son.

Way back in the day, when I commuted a couple of days a week to Tokyo, I found myself waiting for the bus to take me back to the countryside.

As I was walking along the street near the bus terminal I saw a big open window with large puffy billows of white smoke pouring out, and diligent men in white uniforms grilling skewers of pork. There were also several customers standing at the outside counter enjoying themselves, which along with a line up at the entrance was a very good sign.

秋田屋外Oh my gosh, I thought to myself, is this my lucky day or what?! 

Thus, I went into Akitaya, and there started a long and meaningful relationship that lasts up to this very day.

Needless to say, I was looked upon with suspicion as this shiny white face doesn’t shout out, “I know how to speak Japanese or read it either” as there of course was no English menu. 

秋田屋のメニュー01

The server gruffly pointed to a seat at the very narrow counter where the patrons were elbow-to-elbow, snarfing skewers and quaffing drinks. This is where a cheap wet towel was then slapped in front of me and I was tersely asked “what da ya wanna drink!

To which I replied, in highly polite Japanese, “a bottle of beer for this hungry and weary resident of Japan, if you please”. 

Well, things got smoother after that, I could read the menu, and my gosh there so were so many delectable items there, I can even taste them now. 

First of all, they have what is known as motsu nikomi, which is pork tripe in miso sauce. 

もつ煮込み

By the way, any Japanese shop worth their miso, always has a worthy motsu nikomi.

Of course, I ordered that along with some tongue and cheek meat and buta nankotsu (pork trachea) on a skewer.

焼き豚 ガツ盛り合わせ02With the very first mouthful of motsu nikomi, I could hear the angels singing hallelujah, and I knew I had at last found the elusive perfect motsu nikomi. This was simply the most outstanding motsu nikomi dish I had ever experienced up until that very moment in my entire life, with each bit of pork tripe melting in my mouth. 

It got even better, as there was this old lady roaming around serving the customers and chitchatting them up like they were her very own children, which in essence they may very well have been.

老婦人04Having never married, she worked her entire life in just this one shop serving the hungry and tired salary men who run the system which is Japan. 

Imagine that!

She also handed out her special homemade pickles only to the select customer that are regulars and that she liked, of which I was one.

老婦人07


She used to like to wear my hat.

I loved her sense of humour.

I was going to go to Akitaya one day at the end of December, it was closed, but I ran into her coming out the door. I said “ I am so disappointed that you are closed today, and I can not have your wonderful food”, to which she replied “well you can line up here until we reopen after the New Years holiday on January 4th”. 

老婦人02

It was December 29th on that sad and hungry day.

老婦人08

She was the last remaining sibling of the family that established this shop after coming down from the far away northern prefecture of Akita, where these siblings opened up this pork guts shop in Hamamatsucho near my bus terminal for which I am grateful.  As time marches on, she too has passed away, and her mischievous spirt lives on here in this blog and in the Land Of The Rising Son.

There were so many delightful dishes there such as kusaya, which is fermented fish that stinks when being cooked, but oh is it amazing when it melts in ones mouth as the sweet savoury meat of this fermented fish complements your favorite alcoholic beverage of choice.

くさや02くさや01I recall ordering an oolong-high (Chinese tea with shochu), there back in early days. Now remember oolong-high is a staple drink in these types of establishments, and I just though they would also have it as well. No sirree, not at Akitaya! The dry reply from the surly server was “we don’t have that here” Well, lemon-high it was from then on, as there is no paradox of choice at this shop whatsoever.

The staff members of Akitaya are also such very nice people on top of being diligent and dedicated to serving the hungry salary-people of Japan.  

秋田屋スタッフ01焼き豚マスター https://bit.ly/2Zw7xLVThere you have it; a true Japanese family restaurant in the heart of Tokyo, why don’t you go?

Map to Akitaya here.

Bonus: Watch the master of the charcoal grill and his extraordinary skills here.

Japanese School Lunch

Japanese School Lunch

Japanese School Lunch

Japanese School Lunch

I fondly remember the first time I was invited to an elementary school as a guest, it was my very first experience for the school lunch in Japan.

Wow, having never seen anything like Japanese school lunch, I found what unfolded in front of my eyes to be extraordinary.

First of all, the students on duty would go to the lunch preparation room where they pick up the equipment necessary to serve lunch. They were all dressed in white smocks with white caps.

They would then bring the food back to their classroom, and serve it up to the other students who were lined up.

I found this incredible, to see these children, serving their fellow students.

Isn’t this an excellent way to train your citizens to be thoughtful members of society, where everyone takes turns serving each other.

Of course the homeroom teacher took part in this ritual by overseeing the entire operation.

One more thing I found indeed wonderful about Japanese school lunches was the nutritional value and the deliciousness of these school lunches, which were always well thought out.

And I remember back in the day when I was going around teaching at several different junior high schools, I was always delighted to share in the school lunches with the children, and they were indeed delighted to have this novelty from a distant land sharing their lunch with them.

Here’s a video of the Japanese children serving of each other the school lunch, and I’m sure you will admit, or maybe you’re thinking that your country might welcome Japanese style school lunch protocol.

I firmly believe, this is the way the Japanese are formulated to become meaningful members of our society, while building an innate sense of belonging to your own group, and this is done by “serving others”.

It is also delightful to see the Japanese children start eating all at the same time with a boisterous “itadakimasu“ (this is polite language to be used before eating)

On a side note: Did you know that in the first 3 years in school in Japan, they have no exams or tests? It’s all about discipline, social, hygiene and health lessons.

I hope we can take some lessons away from the Japanese school lunch and apply this mindset to one’s own life.

Natto: Soul Food Of Japan

Natto: Soul Food Of Japan

Natto: Soul Food Of Japan

Natto: Soul Food Of Japan

nStinky, Slimy, Savoury, Succulent and So On…

One get a mixed reaction from many of the Japanese, and uniform abhorrence of this miracle food from foreigners.

A quick side note: Amongst the Japanese, Japan is refereed to as East Japan and West Japan (thus JR East and JR West). Which at first may seem confusing as when you look at a map of Japan, one would think North and South.

No dear reader, the are the Japanese at it again, thinking about things their own way.

But I digress.

Generally speaking our Japanese brothers and sisters from West Japan, also dislike natto, not quite as much as, but almost as much, as our foreign counterparts.

Some of the things that might come to mind when you first try this miracle food is wow, this smells like soiled baby diapers, or, oh my gosh, the texture in my mouth is just like sucking on a garden slug, it’s so very slimy.

But do not despair dear reader, as once you get past those two significant barriers, you will find a mouth full of joy, unlike any other.

Who would’ve ever thought the lowly soybean would turn out to be an important, and very healthy staple of the Japanese diet?

Natto is commonly eaten as a breakfast foods, and consists of fermented soy beans.

The soy beans are mixed with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, as known as nattō-kin in Japanese.

If you’ve never heard of this miracle food yet, you have been missing out on something quite important!

The significant health benefit of natto can not be understated.

In particular, the overall health of ones all-important gut bacteria, which benefits greatly from the almighty nattō-kin.

Here are some secrets to whipping up a slimy delectable delight for morning dinning pleasure and ones health and longevity.

Always, start by adding a small amount of vinegar, make sure you use high quality apple cider vinegar!

This allows the natto to become very foamy before adding any of the next following ingredients as you see fit.

Other ingredients:
Myoga
Shiso
Yamaimo
Spiruina
Hemp Hearts
Fresh Garlic
Fresh Ginger
Egg Yolk

I like to layer the natto onto rice and take a piece of nori, dip it in soy sauce, and make a small elegant piece of sushi. Delicious!

There you have it.

One has now started an incredible natto journey, and, as one continues the never ending quest for mental, physical, and spiritual health and longevity, one has now found an important ally with natto.

Read all about Natto here

Ponds Of Alcohol, Forests Of Meat(sumptuous feast)

Ponds Of Alcohol, Forests Of Meat(sumptuous feast)

Ponds Of Alcohol, Forests Of Meat(sumptuous feast)

Ponds Of Alcohol, Forests Of Meat(sumptuous feast)

The Japanese love to have parties!

Official ones are known as “enkai”, which translates to “banquet”, but is much more formalized here.

These types of parties are very common in Japan and is a bonding session between members of the feasting group.

Of course the party always starts with some long winded speech by a couple of “important people”, of the group. These speeches tend to drone on and every one wants them to shut up and start the party.

There’s always an amazing array of delicious food and lots and lots of “junkatsu yu” or social lubricant.

When the the party consist of all males, you often see the “companions” come in. These are hired all young ladies more often than not in their early 20s smelling of cheap perfume and they are there to coddle these middle-age salary men or business people along, and add spice to the party.

Clocking in at exactly 2 hours. The banquet ends with everybody standing up and doing something that’s known as “3 bon jimei”. This is where the leader of the party, says ready go, and everybody claps their hands three times and then shouts “yo”, repeated two more times for a total of three, and at the end everybody claps and cheers, and that’s the end of this particular party, but not the end of the night no sir!

The party then breaks up into separate groups with lots of the younger crowd going sing more karaoke, or more commonly so amongst the men, go to what is known as a “snack”, where they drink more alcohol served by young hostesses, and eat overpriced fruit trays.

This is what is known as “ni jikai” or “second party”.

More often than not, these snack men then go into a 3rd and last party, which is at a late night ramen shop.

There they drink more beer, eat hearty bowls of noodles containing heavy calorie rich broth, and eating Chinese dumplings.

Have experienced this myself, and can attest to feeling of heaviness the next day. I’ve only done this a couple times in my life. You are better off to skip this one, unless you are hungry, which you are not.

The Japanese “enkai” banquet is truly a unique experience, and you can not truly understand this unique Japanese party style until you have actually experienced one for your own self.

Tuna Fish Insanity

Tuna Fish Insanity

Tuna Fish Insanity

Tuna Fish Insanity

Personally, I don’t eat things that are becoming endangered, but that is just me.

However, the Japanese are at it again, expensive seafood, really, really expensive seafood.

A single  bluefin tuna fetched 193.2 million yen on Sunday at the 2020 New Year’s auction at Tokyo’s Toyosu fish market, the second-highest price on record.

The record holder is a now gone, but not forgotten bluefin tuna which fetched a record 333.6 million yen in the New Year auction last year (2019) when it was held for the first time in Toyosu following the market’s relocation from the historical and fabled Tsukiji fish market.

The price paid for this year’s prize 276-kilogram Bluefin tuna amounts to 700,000 yen per kg.

The successful bidder was again Kiyomura Corp, the Tokyo-based operator of sushi restaurant chain Sushizanmai.

The company said the tuna will be served at the chain’s restaurant in nearby Tsukiji fish market, the former location of the capital’s major fish market.

For me tuna is surely delicious, but not that wonderful I assure you.

You can find comparable immaculate flavours of sashimi or sushi, when you order fresh abalone liver or the ever so amazing sea urchin.

Further tickle your taste buds with the fatty meat of bonito, engawa of flatfish, and crab brains.

I promise, you won’t have to pay ¥10,000 a mouthful, and I also promise you will come away from dinner just as sated.  Furthermore, you can have a clear conscious that you have not consumed one of the few last, near extinct remaining king of all fish; the majestic Bluefin Tuna.

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